3:AM also features a new piece of short fiction from Chrostowska, “How to Avoid the Cardinal Sins /A Nominalistic Pamphlet/“.
From the interview:
3:AM: How did Permission begin? Did it begin as a novel? As something else?
S D Chrostowska: It began with the first message, and ended with the last. It was principally a literary effort subordinated to communication. To me this remains a crucial difference, itsdifferentia specifica. The origin of the now-book Permission was in an illegitimate literary dimension outside the frame of book authorship. You have to understand that, though I had chosen my reader, this reader could not know what if anything would become of the writing that came their way. Naturally I wonder whether and how it changes things for readers today, who approach them as a bound book, to know that the letters, just as they are, were once for real.
3:AM: Why write the letters under a pseudonym? How did you arrive at “Fearn Wren”?
SDC: For the sake of ambiguity. Knowing too much, or for that matter anything, about the artist-producer prejudices us about their work. The prejudice is not just personal or social but also simply contextual. It is all but unavoidable in visual and performing artworks requiring direct human contact, where other people are involved from the start rather than just on the receiving end. Sitting for a portrait or mounting a play depends on direct interaction. But we have already chosen the photographer based on their reputation. And we know something about the director before we get involved in their production or, if we happen to be directors, select actors based on their training or past work.
But writing, usually done at some distance from readers, can minimize our reader’s prejudices—at least until the finished work is judged, and the reviews and exposés come out. One way it can do this is by appearing anonymously or pseudonymously. Such publishing has a long history. As, one should add, does letter-writing under a pseudonym. Permission’s first reader would have had no context to go on.
Being read as an unknown author, not part of the literary scene, mimics that condition somewhat. But almost everyone nowadays can be googled, which is to say traced. I imagine that many people who would pick up a book like mine would be curious in this way.
I’m not sure how I settled on this particular pen-name. I do like ferns and wrens, their behaviors and the myths around them.
So, my signature interview question — “Have you ever stolen a book?” — had to be cut because it was just kind of confusing on 3:AM, but I couldn’t not ask it, so:
3:AM: Have you ever stolen a book?
SDC: Of course.